By Father Gene Hemrick
Yeshua Institute Fellow
The Johnson Wax administration building, constructed in 1936, in Racine, Wisconsin, is the rarest of modern buildings. It is as much a total work of art as are the cathedrals of Europe.
Its architect was Frank Lloyd Wright who designed virtually everything in it. Among its most striking features are the columns, which look like narrow stemmed wine glasses turned upside down with their bases supporting the ceiling. The ceiling space between the columns is covered by on giant skylight. The effect is one of airy, natural brightness.
Atriums add to the spaciousness of the building, as does the design of furniture. Desks and chairs have no sharp pointed edges. All the furniture is rounded, creating a free-flowing environment.
Wright thought the building worthy of this supreme orchestration because he believed that the workplace need not be mundane. He wrote that the building was to be “as inspiring a place to work in as any cathedral ever was in which to worship.”
Wright also wanted to remove the box effect found in most architecture. He believed a building should fit into its surrounding environment, capture light and allow for free movement.
Studying Wright’s architecture and thinking about his philosophy inspires me to pass on an uplifting idea for making 2023 and the future beyond it a delight.
Most of us would deny emphatically that we are architects because we haven’t designed anything, much less a building. Yet we are architects, responsible for creating a special environment whenever we are with others. As some young people might put it, we always “give off vibes” -- and that influences the environment around us.
When we are happy, we tend to lift spirits and release pent-up frustrations in others who may be all boxed in by them.
When we are concerned about another’s feelings or ideas, we tend to create an atmosphere of sympathy and a sense of togetherness which diminishes the sharp, pointed edges of a problem. We free up the situation and help things to flow better once again.
With the sort of detachment that removes any overemphasis on ourselves or on “me,” we create more open space around us in which we are freed to reach out more fully to others.
It is my wish that in this year – and thereafter -- you will think more of yourself as an architect and artist.
May this lead you to create atmospheres of joy that others will rejoice in.
May you be an inspiration to others. And may you be blessed with the vision to create wholesome spaces that allow for freedom of movement and reflect life at its best.